5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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COLONY IN SPACE
"Buildings in ruins, people lying dead. Some great catastrophe, I should think."
So. The Third Doctor manages to get off Earth for the first time in his tenure, although of course without shedding the dire Jo or the increasingly one-note Master. And how is it? Well, it's all right. It's a bit on the worthy side, and there's too much going on, but it has some very effective moments.
The Doctor, in sexy kneeboots, is working in the lab with Jo gazing worshipfully at him. (His relationship with her, incidentally, is getting more paternalistic and patronising by the day. Count how many times he puts his hand on her cheek, usually while either marvelling at her stupidity or forbidding her to do something. Still, he has a point about the stupidity.)
He invites Jo into the TARDIS, which dematerialises all by itself. (It seems to have forgotten how to do this properly, by the way, popping in out of space in a risible manner rather than elegantly fading in and out as a proper TARDIS should.) Is Jo thrilled to the marrow to be travelling in time and space? Well, no. Not as such. First, after giving the TARDIS a cursory glance, she's bored and begs the Doctor to let her out, and then when it lands she's a quivering mass of fear. After Caroline John, we can see why this appealed to Jon Pertwee, but it doesn't appeal to us.
After an offstage spine transplant, Jo recovers enough to accompany the Doctor to a colony settlement located somewhere in a quarry, where they meet the leader of the colony Ashe (in a former life the priest in The Aztecs) and his daughter, Gail Tilsley.
We find out, via the incredibly sophisticated device of seeing someone rip the page off the calendar, that we're quite some time in the future and that the Earth has gone to hell in a handbasket. (The usual doomy futurey stuff, in fact.) The simple decent hard-working honest colonists are having a bit of trouble with their crops and the pesky local "primitives". But if they thought they were having a bad day before, they ain't seen nothing yet, because Evil Mining Dudes have landed and are about to stripmine them all to hell. Add to that a terrifying dinosaur that's really a Lost in Space-esque robot, a colonist who's really a spy, a bunch of telepathic green people with funny heads and - ta-daa! - the Master, and you've got an overstuffed plot that seems to have been bolted together from the offcuts of half a dozen other scripts while remaining strangely simplistic.
Colony In Space's still quite fun, though. The nasty miners are good for a giggle - the Captain seems to think being menacing consists of delivering lines without moving his lips, and his second in command is so psychotically violent he's practically frothing at the mouth. There's also The One With The Conscience, although how he managed to rub along before with this band of psychopaths is anybody's guess. He, incidentally, is the crew's one mining expert, which seems a little unusual to us given that it's a mining operation, but who are we to question?
The telepathic natives, an advanced civilisation which has long since mastered the Magic Marker, give rise to a whole bunch of smirksome goofs. The Doctor says to them "I know you can understand me, you can read my mind." What happened to the TARDIS translation circuits? When the Doctor and Jo hide from the primitives, how come they can't find them by hearing their minds? And why does the chief primitive threaten the Doctor with ghastly reprisals if he comes back to their dwelling, then practically throw him a welcome party when he does?
Amongst all of this, though, Colony In Space has some really successful scenes. The sequence where the colonist tries to escape from the pursuing miners is genuinely suspenseful and makes good use of the location. And the scene where the rocket explodes is truly shocking, reminiscent as it is to a modern audience of the Challenger disaster. Although we find out later that no colonists died in the making of this scene, at the time we're supposed to think they've all been wiped out. Pretty strong stuff for a children's series - and people say the Sixth Doctor's stories are violent!
There's also some interesting Master-Doctor stuff here. After assorted threats to kill the Doctor, the Master for no apparent reason offers him a half share in the universe, and as usual, despite the supposedly dread enmity between them, they actually work together very civilly. So what's going on, then? Well, the Androzani Theory is that the Master is hopelessly in love with the Doctor. He wants nothing more than to share his life with the Doctor (hence his repeatedly turning up in the Doctor's vicinity despite the risks that this involves), but his love turns to the rage of the scorned when the Doctor repeatedly rejects him. There's also a bit of hero worship going on there, as the Master constantly defers to the Doctor and clearly admires his, er, expertise. That's our story, and we're sticking to it, so don't waste your flames.
MORAL: 2ICs are more trouble than they’re worth.
After a scintillating start as described above, Jo manages to cover herself with even more glory by getting captured after sneaking aboard the miners' ship for no apparent reason other than to get into trouble. She then caps it all off by walking through the alarm beam in the Master's TARDIS about three milliseconds after carefully crawling under it.
YOU CAN HARDLY SEE THE STRINGS
There are some horrible Thunderbirdsy model shots sprinkled throughout.
I CAN SEE YOUR HOUSE FROM HERE
There's a whole sequence of the miners' ship landing which seems complete padding - it seems the only reason it's there is so they can show off their lovely CSO shot of the planet's surface.